Signs of Depression In Dogs

Behavior Recent January 26, 2022
Dog looking sleepily into camera

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Signs of Depression In Dogs

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Depression in dogs can come in many forms, depending on the cause. Depression is a mood disorder that causes feelings of persistent sadness and worthlessness and is the same for dogs as humans. Unfortunately, depression in dogs is a serious problem that can have a real impact on the life of your pup.

Depression in your dog may come in the form of his normal routine being altered or changed, and result in mood and behavioral changes. Major life changes are usually the culprit for dogs suffering from depression.

Causes of  Depression in Dogs

There are many things that can affect your dog’s emotional state like changes to his routine, changes in his environment, or even the loss of a family member or pet friend. Chronic stress or anxiety resulting from fears and phobias or lifestyle changes, can also have an impact on your dog. These issues can create a version of depression in your dog, but often you may not recognize the change in your dog’s mood or behavior immediately.

Dog depression is usually brought on by a major change in his life, stressful event, or most obvious is the loss of another animal friend or owner as mentioned above. However, your dog may also pick up on sadness and grief being experienced by their owner or others around them for the same reasons. Your dog may also become stressed out by a sudden decline in the attention they are receiving from those around him.

If there have been no recent changes or events in your dogs life, then his depression could be a secondary symptom of an underlying medical problem. If your dog is showing obvious signs of depression you may want to talk to your veterinarian about what could be causing his sad mood.

Signs Your Dog is Depressed

Depression in your dog maybe obvious if he is displaying any of the following issues:

Change in Appetite – If your dog is extremely sad, he may lose interest in food and show signs of weight loss. However, some dogs may use food as a kind of comfort when they are depressed and might eat more, leading to weight gain.

Loss of Interest – If your dog suddenly loses interest in going on walks, playing ball or other things he was once excited about, this maybe cause for concern. Dogs who become less active, or show no interest in activities as well as lose purpose, could be suffering from dog depression.

Sleeping All the Time – Dogs do sleep a lot, but usually when and if you are not around. If you leave your dog for extended periods, while at work, yet he continues to sleep when you get home or hardly reacts to your presence, something is most likely wrong. If you have ruled out physical issues and he is still sleeping a lot then you may want to have him evaluated.

Peeing Indoors – If you aren’t taking your pup outside or on regular walks then you will find yourself dealing with accidents around the house. However, if your dog suddenly starts using the entire house as his bathroom you maybe dealing with a case of depression.

Flattening of the Ears – Signs of sadness often shows up in ears that are tucked down close to the sides of your dogs head. Your dog may flatten his ears when you leave the house but if you notice this often he maybe depressed.

Paw Licking – Excessive licking or chewing of the paws may be a result of physiological or psychological issues. If your dog is depressed he may lick or chew his paws to soothe himself.

Avoidance and Hiding – These types of behaviors can mean one of two things: illness or injury. Depression will fall under the category of illness and should be considered if injury is ruled out. If your dog is suddenly hiding or wants to be left alone, it could mean something is bothering him emotionally.

How to Treat Your Dog’s Depression

Most dogs are able to overcome depression on their own but this could take days or even months, but it can be helped along with love and care from you. This can be done by offering your dog more attention and praise when you witness a sign of happiness like tail wagging, wanting to go for a walk or being playful. During these times you can reward your dog for good behavior.

In addition you can keep your dog active and entertained by going on daily walks, activities or interactive play that you know he will enjoy. If your dog loves to play fetch with a ball then start doing that more often and give him praise when you see him reacting with happiness. Routines make dogs feel safe and secure so it is important to maintain a daily schedule for his activities.

If possible, consider getting another pet, if you recently lost one and your dog is sad because of it. If that is not feasible then take your dog to the park, on doggie dates or to play with a neighbors dog when possible.

Always make sure that your dog is in good physical condition because dogs can become depressed as a result of pain or underlying illness. If your dog displays behavior associated with poor health, take him to the vet to make sure he does not have an underlying condition.

If your dog is not improving after the above suggested treatments, then medications that treat depression could help. Medications used for dogs are the same that are prescribed to humans for depression. The good news is, most dogs recover from depression after being treated for about 6 months, unlike humans who need them longer. However, some dogs may actually need to remain on antidepressants for their entire life.

When to Seek Help

If your dog’s mood or behavior have suddenly changed and you can not determine the cause of it, you will want to see your vet to have him evaluated for health issues.

If your dog is given a clean bill of health, you may consider consulting a accredited pet behaviorist who evaluate the behavioral changes or issues, and make recommendations to help your dog out of his funk.

Final Thoughts

Depression in dogs can stem from emotional, physical and medical issues. One of the most important ways to improve your dog’s emotional health is to strengthen the bond between the two of you by finding activities you and your pup love to do. By scheduling regular play, exercise and walks, you can be sure your dog is happy. If you are concerned about your dogs depression, consult your veterinarian or a pet behavioral expert.

Amy Brown is a Certified NAVC Pet Nutritionist and pet lover. She is the proud owner of two cats and a dog and her love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care, nutrition, and product reviews.
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